An industrial era

It’s been an industrious, mostly industrial week. We’ve been at Jen’s, although I post this at Mary’s preparing for our trip to the U.S. Today we’re having lunch with a two-star general and tomorrow we fly off to Atlanta to spend a week with a three-star general. Oh, and their wives (almost forgot…)! We truly have stars in our eyes.

After the grandeur of Highgrove and Badminton House it was down with a bump and fixing some things. Jen’s indicators on her Ka were broken. I took the housing apart and reckoned the relay was kaput. Ford wanted to charge me £36, but good old www posted me one through for £8. A ten minute job later and all was well.

James the mobile mechanic

James the mobile mechanic

You remember Doris was coughing (EGR valve) and wheezing (turbo noise?) for most of the European tour? After many attempts to self fix, she seemed to sort herself out after I played with some wires under the dash. On the way back from Wells the engine management light came on – and stayed on. Ford had already quoted me over £500 to replace the EGR valve and update the ECU’s software. Not happy with that, but needing to get the software updated, I phoned a local mobile mechanic. I bought the EGR valve from Ford (£210) and the mechanic did the whole lot and put in £10’s worth of turbo cleaner for £120. What was great was I was looking over his shoulder whilst his computer did its magic. We checked all of the four error codes (all EGR/turbo related) and, after some work and a session of ‘ECU learning’, hey presto Doris was fixed. She runs like a dream now…fabulous.

And Jen’s immersion heater broke. She’s actually in our house, so as the landlords we needed to sort it. It’s a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short. The house is Economy 7 and the top up heater elements had been broken for ages. A recommended plumber replaced both elements for £160, which included two hours work and emptying and refilling the immersion heater. But the Economy 7 element still didn’t work. Between us we worked out that it was an electrical problem, but difficult to test unless you stay up overnight when the Economy 7 circuit comes on. After various combinations of immersion on/off and night storage heaters on/off, it became clear that the Economy 7 circuit was down. What to do? Well, how about tripping the fuse! It took me ages to work that out because we have a new fuse box….but the Economy 7 fuses are in the old box which I assumed was no longer needed. Anyhow, that’s sorted without having to open up my wallet. Which is always a welcome event.

we also did some gardening

we also did some gardening

Anyhow, that’s that. Last night we went to a wedding reception for one of Jen’s friends and I danced like, well, my Dad. Although at 53 I am now my Dad and, according to James, Jen’s fiancée, Jen now dances like me. The circle of life….

we looked after Cssie for a day

we looked after Cassie for a day

Have a great week. I’ll try and post from the U.S. if we’re not hob-nobbling too much. But as I’m only taking one pair of trousers (the rest are shorts) and absolutely no tie, I think that’s unlikely.

What a couple of days…

What a couple of days it has been, let me tell you. We left Mum and Dad’s and headed for our friends Peter and Karen’s in Gloucestershire so that on Monday we could attend a corporate away

the closest I got to a photo at Highgrove

the closest I got to a photo at Highgrove

day as guests. The day included a visit to Highgrove’s gardens (where Prince Charles lives – just in case any foreign readers don’t understand the significance), lunch at Badminton House followed by a tour of the house and the gardens.

It was a helluva day. I’m not really into gardens like C is. It’s all v lovely to look round and, if I think about it, it’s quite a trick to bring it all together. But I’m more buildings than greenery. Charlie’s was v au natural with lots of wooden follies, strange water features and big trees. It was lovely, with his fingerprints all over it. He does, apparently, do a lot of the work himself. He’s been known to count all the bulbs in the wild meadow and plant trees in a haphazard way, because he wants haphazard.

round the Beaufort's place

round the Beaufort’s place

Lunch in the great hall at Badminton was fun and we were privileged to look round the private rooms of the Beauforts and wander aimlessly round their lovely gardens; more regimented than Highgrove, but still a relaxed garden lacking in formality. I don’t have any photos of Highgrove (no mobiles nor cameras allowed – a short tour in The Tower would be the outcome if we were caught) but I took a few snaps of Badminton.

the Duke's back garden

the Duke’s back garden

the outdoor pool

the outdoor pool

That evening Peter arranged for me to meet with Duff Hart-Davis, the renown biographer and journalist. We discussed writing and publishing for about an hour. As a non-fiction writer he works on receiving money advances in order to write a book – as such he does

Duff H-D's latest book

Duff H-D’s latest book

work in a different way to us fiction writers: write first get paid later. But it was an enlightening and inspiring chat. Anyhow he encouraged me to send UH to his editor mentioning his name, so I’ve done that. And, to cap a great day, I passed the 100 books milestone. Yippee!

After that we checked into Jen’s dentist and I had my final trip to the consultants ref my ears. Nothing to report. After a couple of difficult weeks my ears feel much better today, so maybe there was a subliminal exchange of a prescription that I didn’t notice. Or maybe it’s just all in my head.

Jen's business is thriving

Jen’s business is thriving

We’re at Jen’s for a couple of days and then head back to Mary’s so we can leave Doris in her drive and head off to the good old U S of A for a week. It will be like a proper holiday (as if you need one, I can hear you saying). Well Riley has to have a break every so often…

Peter and C

Peter and C

Have a great rest of week.

The Big Bash

With the launch of my author’s Facebook page and with this blog almost into its third year, I am omnipresent on the www and a multi-media mogul. I’ve no idea why, therefore, my friend Rupert M has re-employed Rebecca Brooks to run News Corps when clearly I am between jobs and available. They really don’t know what they’re missing. Oh well, perhaps another time.

What about the weekend? Well I’m writing this on Sunday morning after the big-bash in the quiet of a house buoyed by the odd glass of Chardonnay and then subdued by a couple of rounds of whiskey. Thank goodness for that!

the big bash

the big bash

It all started with the actual day. We arrived after Mum and Dad had taken some friends out to lunch at the local restaurant where much of the topic of conversation was concerning the hand-delivery of HM’s congratulatory card. (It’s good to know that they’re close friends.) In all seriousness this is one good reason why nobody ever ought to

a letter from good friends

a letter from good friends

speak of the dissolution of the monarchy. The joy the Queen’s card brought to my parents when illness and Father Time are beginning to take their toll was worth more than half of the NHS budget they spend on pills and ointments.

Friday saw the arrival of Bex and Steven – so good to see them – and after a walk round the biggest but most beautiful anachronism in England, the Great Bentley show, everyone descended on 18 Cherrywoods and the fun began. The Show is fabulous. With the biggest village green in England (48 acres) and the accompanying largest marquee in Christendom, there were competitions for everything from beans to beetroot, and Lego models to photographs. Bex and I made a pact that we would both enter the best photograph competition next year and see which Ladley would win. She should, as she does have the better camera. (So she insists on reminding me.)

 a glorious anachronism

a glorious anachronism

Jen, James and Cassie arrived at about six and the three of us popped down to the pub to decorate the room (C had made a table centre from the zillions of flowers M&D had received) and we put up balloons, displayed the cake etc. Kevin, who had been at a company bash to watch England v Ireland, arrived with his team a little later and with a glass of champagne we were off!

Actually it all went really rather well. I’ve included the photos below for our posterity, but it’s suffice to stay that, bearing in mind the last time we all got together was four or five years ago when all the children were smaller, it was a joyful and incident free occasion. I take back my previous comment about ‘family and alcohol’, because whilst that has at times tended to be a sparkler short of a firework display, it was great. And well done the pub for looking after us quite so well.

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So that’s that. We’re all heading our separate ways today. C and I are off to another v special event tomorrow (more of which later) and this time next week we will be just a day away from visiting Phil and Denise in the U.S. Can’t wait. For the rest of this week we have some medical admin to sort and a few other bits and pieces. Hopefully the Arctic weather will give us some respite – an Indian Summer would be nice. But knowing us that’s unlikely.

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Anyway, enough about the weather. Have a great week.

Back to work?

taken on the canal

taken on the canal

Here’s the thing. Two years ago at this particular juncture I would have been up to my leather-elbowed cardigan sleeves in School INSET. One of my responsibilities was running the school training and the first four days back in September was the biggie. It was one of those periods of high octane management when you knew that nobody really wanted to be there, but with boxes to tick and staff to keep onside it needed to be slick and useful. I think I managed to get it right once in four years.

Of course this year the only INSET I have to arrange is for C and I to work her new Hudl, which at £100 from Tescos, is an extraordinary price to pay for a tablet which already seems to do so much more better than her old iPad. Sorry Apple, but we are both now Android fans – although to be fair I have kept my iPad which is a newer version and its large screen is so much easier for writing this drivel.

out for Jen's engagement celebrations

out for Jen’s engagement celebrations

Am I bothered that I should, at my age, still be running INSET, or at least preparing my classroom for the coming year? First, for the last year at the school I didn’t have a classroom as my ‘other responsibilities’ meant that I spent less time teaching children and more time bossing people about. And second, ehh….no. It’s fair to say that I did have a wobble a couple of months ago about whether or not I should be working; whether or not I should be contributing in some way or other. But that feeling didn’t last that long. I have written UH, a proper novel which has so far netted me about £50 (almost at 100 sales as I write this), and people tell me that’s an accomplishment in itself. Since July it’s been about advertising and other stuff and, in my mind, sorting out the plot for the sequel – another Sam Green novel.

I have also been doing some research for a friend of mine and whilst that comes to a close at the end of September it’s kept my grey matter from turning a bluey-green and solidifying into a congealed blob. So I have made some contribution to mankind, even if it’s been on my terms and at my pace. I have to say that I am really looking forward to writing the sequel to UH and know that there’s a lot of hours needed to make that fluent and be better than the original. So some work to do…

But what have we done? We took Jen and James out to a celebratory engagement supper at Chiquitos at Cribbs. We were expecting processed and reheated frozen food, and whilst both of those may have been as it was, the food was v good. The picture below is what we found was parked next to Jen’s car when we came out. Fabulous – it’s purple by the way.

when I'm a famous author...

when I’m a famous author…

We had a further day at Jen’s where C and I went out to the military housing estates that support Abbeywood (the centre of military procurement and the largest office block in Europe) and distributed some more UH leaflets. I think I managed to fix Jen’s indicators which flashed three times and then stopped. Whilst I did it (with a small hammer and some electrical contact spray) I managed to short the horn – not so good for driving round the quiet estates of north Bristol. So I unplugged it (couldn’t find the fuse) until the contact spray dried and I could reconnect it without waking the neighbours.

On the way to Mary’s, where we are now, we stopped of at Kenn’s to pick up some leaflets which he had been kindly handing out. Yesterday evening we had a crash course in how to play bridge (now that’s real INSET for you…) by watching Mary play in her league and today we popped into Guildford to help Mary get a new phone. I have been working on my Facebook page (here…My Facebook Page which is not really live yet), and following some other advice given to me by a fellow author who I have befriended on the web – via the ex-DI Steve we met at a campsite the other day.

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So it’s all go here. Off to Colchester tomorrow for Mum and Dad’s 60th bash. I just hope it all goes well…you know what it’s like when you mix family and alcohol!